Thursday, February 19, 2009

Scandalously the ECB is accountable to those they pay, not those who pay them

The series of disasters at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), culminating in the Stanford scandal, can at least in part be attributable to the fact that the ECB is accountable to those they pay, not those who pay them. It is a tenet of proper systems of governance that leaders are accountable to their paymasters or their electorates – whether it is a vote of shareholders or of politicians from time to time an election takes place which holds business and political leaders to account, nominally at least. At the ECB the reverse applies.

Only a couple of weeks ago the chairmen of the First Class counties, plus a representative from the MCC, re-appointed Giles Clarke as Chairman of the ECB. The evidence against Clarke, well articulated by his rival Lord Marland and others, was damning and had it been the cricket loving public in Britain who were making the choice he would have been out on his ear. But it wasn’t. It was the Chairmen of the counties and like turkeys they weren’t going to vote for Christmas. The Christmas they wanted to avoid was the proper and structural review of English domestic cricket that the ECB has been ducking for years. Such a root and branch review, which Jonathan Marland would certainly have instituted, would have properly investigated not just the way that the ECB is funded and the rather opaque corporate structure that it has, but also and most importantly how that money is spent. The likelihood that a proper and honest review would have recommended a substantial reduction in the number of First Class counties in England and Wales is high. And that is where the turkeys come in.

There can be little doubt that Giles Clarke will have given behind-the-scenes assurances to the counties that there futures are secure and that ECB funding will continue – at least so long as he remains Chairman. Such an overblown future for English cricket has been condemned by many objective observers who are not themselves reliant on ECB patronage. Even Lord MacLaurin, no enemy of the ECB, has called for the number of counties to be reduced from 18 to 12 and many other critics of the present system would go much further. William Buckland in his thoughtful and well argued book “Pommies” said that second tier English cricket (currently the County system) should have no more than five or six teams in it – in line with the systems that exist in most of the rest of the cricket world.

The counties fear of radical change combined with the patronage they have received from Giles Clarke has probably protected his position for the time being - even though his hands and those of his CEO David Collier are tainted by their association with Stanford. Unless these two fall on their swords - and the loss of a substantial salary (in Collier’s case) and munificent perks and privileges (in both cases) are such that they will no doubt fight to the end to avoid this honourable step. And the County chairmen? Will they really continue to contemplate their own navels and look away from the ugliness that hangs over the ECB at present? Don’t bet against it!

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